Liquor Law Rules Examined

By Frankie Barbato
BU News Service

BOSTON —The long process some bars and restaurants face in securing a liquor license could change early next year under a new law that would transfer state control to local officials when it comes to issuing licenses.

“Towns or cities know best about how many liquor licensees are needed,” state Sen. James Eldridge said after a Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure hearing Tuesday.

Eldridge, D-Acton, testified for his bill that would allow city councils and town selectmen, rather than the state, to determine the number of licenses to distribute to local businesses.

“It would have an economic impact all over our communities if we could provide more liquor licenses across the commonwealth,” Eldridge said.

Under current law, the state distributes licenses based on a municipality’s population. Once local officials support the license, it moves to the Legislature for final approval.

Eldridge said cities and towns must apply for additional licenses and oftentimes that process can take from six to nine months.

“For anyone who opens a restaurant it’s already a very tough business and this would create more predictability,” Eldridge said.

Eldridge said restaurants can face a tough time surviving without a liquor license. He said however, that more liquor licenses could change the value of the sought-after licenses.

“There is concern that if you are adding more liquor licenses how will it impact cost or value of the license,” Eldridge said.

Eldridge said he does not expect the bill to pass until the Legislature returns from its holiday recess.

Ayanna Pressley, a Boston city councilor, testified in support of Eldridge’s bill.

“The main thing for me is that I want control to be returned to municipalities,” Pressley said after the hearing.

Pressley said the legislation is long overdue and that more liquor licenses for smaller businesses could generate local economic growth.

“Municipalities should be determining how best to revitalize their neighborhoods,” Pressley said.

Rep. Carolyn Dykema, D-Holliston, is proposing a bill in the House that would allow Westborough to bypass legislative approval to get additional liquor licenses, Dykema said in a telephone interview after the hearing.

Dykema said if Eldridge’s bill passes, she would not have to move forward with her separate legislation because Westborough would fall under his bill.

Dykema said both bills would remove an unnecessary administrative step and shorten the application process. She said her bill would help bring more local restaurants to the town, creating more economic growth.

“I really don’t see any benefit to the state having final say over this type of thing,” Dykema said.

This article first appeared on The MetroWest Daily News

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